Is a key message missing from animal rights campaigning?

This article first appeared on the Melbourne Pig Save website on 14th February 2018.

Animal rights campaigners may be missing a key message in their efforts to convey the horror of animal agriculture.

Heinous acts of physical and psychological cruelty are performed routinely in livestock establishments around Australia with the full support and protection of the law.

People may generally assume this could not occur due to the existence of: so-called “prevention of cruelty to animals” legislation; and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

The reality is, firstly, that the livestock sector is exempt from legislative requirements in respect of many horrifically cruel practices and, secondly, the RSPCA’s inspection and enforcement roles in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia are limited to welfare breaches outside the mainstream livestock sector. In all states and territories, the laws affecting animals are the responsibility of government departments whose main focus is the economy.

Because: (a) many cruel practices (including mutilation without pain prevention or relief) are legal in livestock establishments; and (b) the ratio of “production” to “companion” animals in Australia is around 30:1; the RSPCA’s role in preventing cruelty is extremely limited.

The RSPCA says it is “of the view that the needs of individual animals can be met while, at the same time, providing the community with food and fibre, and having a productive and profitable livestock sector”.

That statement reflects a tragically narrow view of the “needs of individual animals” and an acceptance of animal exploitation.

When they see cruelty depicted in animal rights images or video footage online or in the street, members of the community may erroneously assume the documented treatment represents an aberration, rather than the everyday reality. Animal activists need to inform them that the protections they take for granted are a facade.

The Victorian government (in the form of Labor and the Liberal/National coalition) has blatantly lied to the community about the issue for years, seemingly without being challenged by independent members of parliament or minor parties.

If activists could clearly convey this message, it may create a critical breakthrough at the individual and broader community level.


Paul Mahony


Agriculture Victoria (within the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources), “Reporting animal cruelty”, (Accessed 13th February 2018)

Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, (Accessed 13th February 2018)

Government of Western Australia, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, “Animal welfare roles and responsibilities”, (accessed 14th February 2018)

Queensland Government, Business Queensland, “Enforcing the Animal Care and Protection Act”, (accessed 14th February 2018)

NSW Government, Department of Primary Industries, “Animal Welfare”, (accessed 14th February 2018)

Tasmanian Government, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment, “Animal Welfare”, (accessed 14th February 2018)

Government of South Australia, Primary Industries and Regions SA, “Ethical animal production and animal welfare”, (accessed 14th February 2018)

Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAOSTAT Production 2016

RSPCA, “Layer Hen FAQ”, (accessed 13th February 2018)

RSPCA, “Agriculture in Australia: Our role”, and

Australian Veterinary Association, Pet ownership statistics, (accessed 13th February 2018)

Image, Yelmah Piggery, South Australia, 2016

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